Wow. I mean, I’m fully aware the pandemic is putting a lot of stress on everyone, even if they don’t realize it at first. I’d been reading articles from experts about how we’re grieving, experiencing trauma, and the like, and I respect their opinions. I’ve also tried to be even more self-aware, so I could take care of my mental health, and I’ve advised friends not to worry about being productive at this time.
But something got missed.
Because whoo-boy, did I ever experience The Overwhelm™ this past week. This is what I call my pre-cursor to an autistic meltdown. Now, I knew I was exhausted and my executive dysfunction was being executively dysfunctional, but I can’t tell you for how long I stopped expressing my stresses. Must have been for long enough, because this week, I was ready to pack in my entire writing career. And for reals.
You know how you’ll begin writing a WIP, love it, then hate it, but then you get some encouragement and plod on? That’s a typical writing process for many authors. Well, this week, it sort of looked like I was going through that on the outside, but on the inside, I totally questioned everything I’ve ever written, along with my validity as an author. I fretted about lack of sales and figured my body of work wasn’t worth reading anyway. I also had no idea why I was bothering to write Iris and the Crew. Who would want to read an episodic space opera series about a disabled command crew? Why was I even trying to write an episodic series? I write novels or short stories! Would anyone stick around to read “season two?” What am I doing???
And this wasn’t a flippant “woe is me” moment. I really and truly believed my work was crap and so was I. What’s worse, it threw me into a tunnel-visioned state of panic. I just couldn’t perceive anything decent about myself as an artist at all.
Thank goodness I reached out to my author community on Facebook. They gave me reams of encouragement, which I had trouble internalizing at the time, but then I had some one-on-one discussions. I also spoke to my husband at length about my extreme insecurity and how I felt like a garbage writer. He knows me well, so he listened and told me to rest that evening with an activity I enjoyed. So, I did that, and fell asleep early.
The next day, out of the blue, I thought, “Oh! I know how to handle this manuscript!” It just so happened to be the same day as my biweekly writing group, The Inkonceivables. I was still terrified to read from Episode 3 but asked if I could go first because of my anxiety. They let me. I hadn’t read this part of the book out loud yet, but as I did, I thought, Hey, I like this! Then the feedback came, and it was so positive and constructive.
The day after, I was able to write again. Not a lot, but I was happy with the words I put out. And I reviewed my outline for the rest of the book, remembered why I crafted it that way, and felt so much better.
Reaching out to people is so important at times like these. Even online. Having a video chat like a writers group really helps, too. At least it does for me because I get to hear their laughter and see the expressions in their eyes. I feel more connected.
Sure, I know every writer with a pulse gets days when they feel they’re not great at their craft, but this was super bad for me. Worst ever. In any case, no matter whether extreme or not, I’d encourage you to seek community through rough times and during not-so-rough times. It’s good for us to connect, if just for a little bit.
So, yeah, I’ve written over 12K words this month, won’t reach 40K, but I feel really victorious and still have my direction set for Iris and the Crew Tear Space a New One. I’m going to keep at it!
I’ll update you on April 30 as to how much more I’ve written. Hey, these were words that weren’t penned in March, so that’s a win!
Cait Gordon is a disability advocate who wants everyone to pummel that curve!
She’s also the author of Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers. When Cait’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also teamed up with Kohenet Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the Nothing Without Us anthology in an attempt to take over the world.